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Friday, August 30, 2013

The Importance of Waterproof Mascara

A few months ago, when I first started Deep Water Running, I arrived home after class to a really concerned look from my doorman.  I'd had a great class splashing around (and getting splashed)  and I felt fabulous.  After a long bus ride home, and the concerned greeting in the lobby, I got upstairs and looked in the mirror to discover my mascara running down my face - I looked like I'd had a literal meltdown.  Lesson #1 - check a mirror before leaving the locker room.  Lesson #2 - waterproof mascara is a mermaid's best friend.

So I was really amused but not surprised to discover that the Aqualillies have their own waterproof makeup line.

I haven't tried it but I will.

Am busy writing up my adventures in Vancouver - stay tuned.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Underwater Hockey and Rugby!

My friend Bonbon (a well-regarded neurologist, pseudonym still in progress) lives in a house full of boys.  Her older son is an excellent hockey player, so Bonbon sent me a link to this fabulous piece on underwater hockey from CNN.  The video is kind of amazing.  Apparently, it's very popular in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and it's starting to catch on in the US.  I may need a little more time in the gym before I try this, but it looks really fun. 

So it got me thinking, what about water rugby?  Someone beat me to it.  Bless YouTube.  I found this really entertaining video of a "water rugby" match, although it actually looks a little more like water basketball or soccer.  I'll let the experts weigh in. 

Why stop there?  How about water tennis?  Leave it to the Brits to come up with scuba tennis.

The possibilities are endless.  

Have a good weekend!




Friday, August 16, 2013

Party in the Pool -- The Zumba Apocalypse (or, Adventures with Trixie)

No, it wasn't really apocalyptic, but now that I have your attention....

I have been curious about Zumba for years.  Zumba was created by Alberto Perez in the 1990s, and combines aerobics, martial arts, and a hodgepodge of dance styles (latin, hip-hop, belly dancing, afro-carribean, etc.).  It bills itself as high energy, aerobic and calorie burning -- all good.  It is also a huge and profitable franchise (teachers have to be certified by the Zumba Academy). 

In my quest for all things water, my search uncovered Aqua Zumba, an "invigorating low-impact pool party."  It's summer, I'm in the mood to try something new, so why not?

Unfortunately, my gym doesn't offer Aqua Zumba, but I found an evening class at New York Health & Racquet Club.  Luckily, my friend Trixie Bobotnick (pseudonym of her own creation) is a member, and gladly agreed to invite me to the class.  In addition to being a great friend and a great sport, Trixie is an accomplished triathlete, so I wanted to get her perspective on the workout (since I still consider myself a recovering couch potato).  

We arrived at the appointed time and were greeted by our instructor Taryn, who was very upbeat and welcoming and sported a t-shirt emblazoned with the Zumba logo.  She gave us water gloves and directed us to put on flotation belts (the club had an abundant and well organized stash of flotation belts, buoyancy bells, noodles and other pool accoutrements).  We jumped into the pool.

The music started (Gloria Estefan) and we were off.  First we sprinted back and forth across the pool, propelling ourselves off the sides of the pool with our legs at the beginning of each lap.  We did another variation of this routine.    

I should mention that I have been on an antibiotic this week and hallucinations are a possible side effect.  At this point in the class, Taryn shouted "run, walk or calypso across the pool."  I thought I was hearing things, but then the lady next to me -- who had been struggling with the running routine -- broke into an impeccable samba and sashayed across the pool.  I don't know if it was the class or the antibiotics, but everyone was having fun.  The music changed to Ricky Martin and we did another variation of running across the pool and jumping up and down at the end of each lap.  At this point, several people were dancing, and I think I even started singing along to Living La Vida Loca.  

We did one more warmup, bicycling across the pool on flotation noodles, and then we moved on to the dance component of the class.

I consider myself fairly coordinated and I can generally follow a dance routine, but dancing in water is trickier than expected.  The resistance of the water throws your timing off -- it takes a little time to get used to the movements and coordinate with the music.  We started with sort of a hybrid latin/belly dance routine.  I felt a little ridiculous but was inspired by the energetic lady in the front row who was sporting an animal print swim cap.  She was totally swept up in the moment.  

We moved from that into some sort of African dance number.  I tried to get into the spirit and imagined myself performing in the Lion King.  Unfortunately (maybe due to the antibiotics) the Lion King quickly devolved into the very irreverent (and hilarious) Book of Mormon.  I got a really bad case of the giggles as the song Hasa Diga Eebowai got stuck in my head (Google it).  I regained my composure and we did a couple of other dance routines (incorporating belly dance, martial arts and hip hop elements), and we finished the 45 minute class with a combat crawl back and forth across the pool.

Overall, the class was fun, energetic and not overly taxing.  I feel like I got a gentle full body workout, and my knee actually felt great the next day.  I would do it again (but I still prefer Aqua Boot Camp and Deep Water Running).  Trixie found it less challenging, but thought she might do it again (as a cool down after her training sessions for the marathon).  Trixie still prefers her hill workouts to the party in the pool.  Go Trixie!  I owe her a cocktail as a thank you for treating me to the class.

A few notes:

  • Taryn was a good teacher.  She knew the routines and her movements were very precise (mine were less so...).
  • NY Health & Racquet is a nice facility.  The pool and locker area at the 56th Street branch were very clean.  There is a hot-tub and a co-ed sauna (with kind of scary red lighting) next to the pool.  I was a little put off by a slightly creepy guy leering at the Aqua Zumba class from the hot tub, but Trixie assured me that was not the norm.  
  • Flotation belts:  NY Health and Racquet supplies flotation belts like these (in various sizes):

The belts are similar to the one recommended by the knee doc.  For those of us with curves (and even Trixie, who is in better shape than the Mermaid), the belts are like Victorian corsets -- incredibly uncomfortable -- let's just say the belt zigged where I zag.  I have had better luck with the belts provided in my Deep Water Running class :
They are more adjustable (you can distribute the flotation devices around on the belt) and they keep me afloat in 9 feet of water.  I'm not an expert -- I don't know if there is any real difference between the two types of belts.  Use what works best for you.

The Zumba website has a class finder that allows you to search for Zumba classes worldwide.  Once you have located a class, I would call the facility to make sure they still offer the class (one of the listed clubs in NYC no longer offers the class).  In Manhattan, there are classes at New York Health & Racquet Club, the JCC, the Harlem Y, Z Club, Manhattan Plaza Health Club and several other venues.  

Next week, I am off to investigate the water exercise scene (and visit friends) in Vancouver -- will report back post vacation (in my hopefully relaxed post-holiday Zen-like state).

A bientôt.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Aquatics in the News

In my zest to try lots of new classes, I may have overdone it a bit.  I am still a relatively new gym/pool rat, and trying 5 classes in a week was a little too ambitious for my knee.  I listened to my body and took a few days off and now that I'm feeling better I am back to the pool (a more reasonable 3 or 4 times a week).  I am scheduled to try Aqua Zumba tomorrow, so watch this space.

In the meantime, there have been a few interesting water related articles in the news.

Aqua Lillies

My college friend Ah Q (not her real name) is a big fan of the blog, and we are both obsessed with organizing a trip to the mermaid camp at Weeki Wachee (her boyfriend was very amused/perplexed by our mermaid camp plan).  Anyway, over a delicious dinner at Cafe China in Manhattan, she told me about the Aqualillies, a synchronized swimming performance group that was recently profiled in the New York Times.  The Aqualillies bill themselves as "the world's most glamorous synchronized swimming entertainment company, reinventing the classic art for the new millennium."  They perform at various events and they even offer classes at several venues in Los Angeles, including Griffith Park and the amazing Annenberg Beach House as well as private lessons at home pools in L.A.  It all seems very retro and glamorous and I may need to plan a trip to L.A. to visit my friends and take a class.  They are also planning to expand their classes to other cities.  I can't wait.  I may even buy one of those crazy flowery swim caps.

In the meantime, Manhattan Plaza Health Club on West 43rd also offers synchronized swim classes -- it's on my list to try in the next month or so, with my intrepid friend (and fellow deep water running devotee) Lisa G.

Post Sandy Swim Lessons

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was afraid of the deep water as a child.  So I was really moved by an article in the New York Times about people from oceanfront communities in the area who are learning to swim in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.  It profiles several residents of seaside neighborhoods, including a teenager from Far Rockaway who decided to conquer his fear of the water and learn how to swim.  The article also lists several non-profit organizations that offer free or low cost swimming lessons, including the Swim Strong Foundation and the NYC Parks Department's Learn to Swim program.   The programs are trying to address the (economic) disparity that many of the residents who live along the City's beaches cannot swim.  I remember what it was like to be afraid of the water and how empowering and life changing it was to conquer that fear.  It's a good read.     

Jane Brody on Water Exercise

I have been a Jane Brody fan for years -- I love her cookbooks.  So I was chuffed to discover that she is also a swimmer.  She wrote about it last year in a great article on the Zen of swimming, in which she talked about some of the benefits of swimming.  I was intrigued by her blog in today's Times in which Brody (who is not a physician) talked about the relationship of swimming and bone health (which concerns me as I forge through middle age).  Although the article talks about whether swimming negatively affects bone health, I was pleased to read the following comment:

"If you have access to chest-high water in a pool, lake or seaside, you can build muscle mass and strengthen bones by walking forward and backward and side-to-side in the water, she said. This can strengthen the quads, buttocks and core, providing bone stimulation for the spine and hips and shock absorption for the knees."
That is EXACTLY what I have been doing for the past 8 months.  I feel very validated (i.e., glad I listened to the knee doc).  

- MM 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Water Darling.... (or, There'll Always Be an England)

Those of you who know me well know that I am an Anglophile -- I lived there for several years and go back whenever I am able, to see my friends.  So I was extremely excited to discover that the Guardian has started a swimming blog.  One of the inaugural posts included a fairly brilliant set of Rules of the Pool, which I loved -- since you know I'm all about the rules.  And -- when in England -- the first rule is correct pronunciation.  I leave you with my friend Tiddles (the Notting Hill adjunct mermaid) and the correct pronunciation of water.

As we all know, water is essential for mermaids...

Working on a couple of new posts, which will appear in the coming weeks.


Note -- the video doesn't seem to work on mobile devices -- will see if I can fix that....

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Statue of Swimmerty

Anime Metro Mermaid as envisioned by my niece Camilla.  I am less green in real life.

Bon weekend.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Deep Water Running Westchester

I was extolling the virtues of Deep Water Running to a Westchester-based colleague, and came across TreadH2O, which offers classes in three locations in Westchester.  

I haven't tried it but I would welcome a guest post from a Westchester mermaid/merman.  You can contact me through the comments section.